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Himalayan Salt Lamps: Benefits and Myths
They are carved out of pink Himalayan salt and believed to have various health benefits.
In fact, advocates of salt lamps claim they can clean the air in your home, soothe allergies, boost your mood and help you sleep.
However, others question whether these claims have any merit.
This article explores the evidence on Himalayan salt lamps and sorts fact from fiction.
What Are Himalayan Salt Lamps and Why Do People Use Them?
Himalayan salt lamps are made by placing a light bulb inside large chunks of pink Himalayan salt.
They have a distinctive look and emit a warming, pink glow when lit.
True Himalayan salt lamps are made from salt harvested from the Khewra Salt Mine in Pakistan.
Salt sourced from this area is believed to be millions of years old, and although it's very similar to table salt, the small amounts of minerals it contains give it a pink color.
Many people choose to buy Himalayan salt lamps simply because they like the way they look and enjoy the ambiance the pink light creates in their homes. Meanwhile, others find their supposed health benefits alluring.
Himalayan salt lamps are carved from the mineral-rich, pink salt mined from the Khewra Salt Mine in Pakistan. Some people buy them to decorate their home, while others believe they provide health benefits.
How Do Himalayan Salt Lamps Work?
Salt lamps are said to provide health benefits because they are "natural ionizers," meaning they change the electrical charge of the circulating air.
Ions are compounds that carry a charge because they have an unbalanced number of protons or electrons.
They are produced naturally in the air when alterations occur in the atmosphere. For example, waterfalls, waves, storms, natural radioactivity and heat all produce air ions (1).
They can also be created artificially by commercially produced air ionizers.
It's suggested that Himalayan salt lamps may produce ions by attracting water particles that evaporate off as a salt solution when heated by the lamp, forming mostly negative ions (2).
However, this theory has not yet been tested.
Currently, it's unclear whether salt lamps produce ions in meaningful amounts, if at all.
Himalayan salt lamps are said to change the charge of the surrounding air by producing ions that have health benefits. However, it is not currently clear whether they can produce any or enough ions to affect your health.
What Are The Health Claims and Do They Stack Up?
There are three main health claims made about Himalayan salt lamps.
1. They Improve Air Quality
Salt lamps are often claimed to improve the air quality of your home.
More specifically, they are advertised as being beneficial for people with allergies, asthma or diseases that affect respiratory function, such as cystic fibrosis.
However, there is currently no evidence that using a Himalayan salt lamp can remove potential pathogens and improve the air quality of your home.
The claim that they are good for people with respiratory conditions may be partly based on the ancient practice of halotherapy.
In this therapy, people with chronic respiratory conditions are said to benefit from spending time in salt caves due to the presence of salt in the air.
Yet, there is little support for this practice, and it's not clear whether it is safe or effective for people with respiratory conditions (3).
2. They Can Boost Your Mood
Another frequently made claim is that Himalayan salt lamps can boost your mood.
Some animal studies have shown that exposure to high levels of negative ions in the air may improve levels of serotonin, a chemical involved in mood regulation (1).
Yet, human studies investigating claims regarding the psychological effects of air ionization found no consistent effects on mood or feelings of well-being (7).
However, researchers did find that people with depressive symptoms who were exposed to very high levels of negative ions reported improvements in their mood.
Nevertheless, the link they found wasn't dose-related, meaning that people's mood improvements couldn't be explained by the dose they received. Thus, researchers questioned whether the link was causal.
Additionally, it's very unlikely that salt lamps could expose you to the high number of negative ions used in these studies.
3. They Can Help You Sleep
Studies have not yet examined the effects of Himalayan salt lamps on sleep.
However, a review of the effects of air ionization on relaxation and sleep didn't find any evidence of a beneficial effect (7).
Thus, even if salt lamps do affect the air environment, it's not clear if this would have an effect on sleep patterns.
It's possible that using the dim light from a Himalayan salt lamp may help promote sleepiness toward the end of the day if you use it to replace bright electric lights.
However, this isn't specific to salt lamps, and the theory hasn't been tested.
Himalayan salt lamps are claimed to improve air quality, boost mood and help you sleep. However, there is currently little evidence to support these claims.
Do Himalayan Salt Lamps Have Any Benefits?
Although some of their health claims are not supported by science, Himalayan salt lamps may have other benefits.
- They are attractive: If you like the way they look, they could be an attractive addition to your home.
- They create a nice ambiance: They could help create a relaxing atmosphere that helps you unwind.
- They might help limit light in the evening: If you struggle to sleep, using dim lights in the evening may help you get to sleep faster.
Overall, these points may make them a great addition to your home.
Himalayan salt lamps are inviting, create a warm and relaxing ambiance and may help you wind down before bedtime.
The Bottom Line
There is no evidence behind the health claims related to Himalayan salt lamps.
While they may be an attractive addition to a room and help create a relaxing environment, there's little to suggest they do much else.
More research on the theories surrounding their potential health benefits is needed.
Reposted with permission from our media associate Healthline.
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Farms with just one or a handful of different crops encourage fewer species of pollinating and pest-controlling insects to linger, ultimately winnowing away crop yields, according to a new study.
Up to half of the detrimental impacts of the "landscape simplification" that monocropping entails come as a result of a diminished mix of ecosystem service-providing insects, a team of scientists reported Oct. 16 in the journal Science Advances.
Monocrop palm oil plantation Honduras.
SHARE Foundation / Flickr / CC BY-NC 2.0
"Our study shows that biodiversity is essential to ensure the provision of ecosystem services and to maintain a high and stable agricultural production," Matteo Dainese, the study's lead author and a biologist at Eurac Research in Bolzano, Italy, said in a statement.
It stands to reason that, with declines in the sheer numbers of insects that ferry pollen from plant to plant and keep crop-eating pests under control, these services will wane as well. But until now, it hasn't been clear how monocultures affect the number and mix of these species or how crop yields might change as a result.
Aiming to solve these questions, Dainese and his colleagues pulled together data from 89 studies cutting across a variety of landscapes, from the tropics of Asia and Africa to the higher latitudes of northern Europe. They tabulated the number of pollinating and pest-controlling insects at these sites — both the absolute number of individuals and the number of species — along with an assessment of the ecosystem services the insects provided.
In almost all of the studies they looked at, the team found that a more diverse pool of these species translated into more pollination and greater pest control. They also showed that simplified landscapes supported fewer species of service-providing insects, which ultimately led to lower crop yields.
The researchers also looked at a third measure of the makeup of insect populations — what they called "evenness." In natural ecosystems, a handful of dominant species with many more individuals typically live alongside a higher number of rarer species. The team found as landscapes became less diverse, dominant species numbers dwindled and rare species gained ground. This resulting, more equitable mix led to less pollination (though it didn't end up affecting pest control).
"Our study provides strong empirical support for the potential benefits of new pathways to sustainable agriculture that aim to reconcile the protection of biodiversity and the production of food for increasing human populations," Ingolf Steffan-Dewenter, one of the study's authors and an animal ecologist at the University of Würzburg in Germany, said in the statement.
The scientists figure that the richness of pollinator species explains around a third of the harmful impacts of less diverse landscapes, while the richness of pest-controlling species accounts for about half of the same measure. In their view, the results of their research point to the need to protect biodiversity on and around crops in an uncertain future.
"Under future conditions with ongoing global change and more frequent extreme climate events, the value of farmland biodiversity ensuring resilience against environmental disturbances will become even more important," Steffan-Dewenter said.
Reposted with permission from our media associate Mongabay.
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